Friday, July 08, 2016

The Sulu Problem

Yesterday, it was announced that Star Trek Beyond will reveal that the nu-Star Trek version of Hikaru Sulu (played by Jon Cho) is gay.  This was supposed to honor George Takei, the original actor of Sulu, who is gay and an outspoken LGBT activist.

Ironically, Takei said in a recent interview that he doesn’t want Sulu to be made gay.   He declares that this “twisted” Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s intention for the character.  He even appealed to the team behind Star Trek Beyond to not to do it, but instead create a new character who happens to be gay.  He urged them: “Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.”

I agree with Takei.   This reflects the same issue I had last year when Booby Drake a.k.a. Iceman was retconned as gay.  It annoyed me immensely – and it’s not due to the fact that, as a Christian, I believe homosexuality to be a sin – but it was done to a character who has been portrayed as straight for more than fifty years.
By the way, let me digress.  Let me first state my stand on gay fictional characters...

Again, I completely believe that homosexuality is a sin.  But it doesn’t mean that just because a fictional character happens to be gay then I couldn’t appreciate him or her.  I also think atheism, murder, and fornication to be sins.  And yet, I like the characters of Dr. House – an atheist – and The Punisher – a murderer – and James Bond – a fornicator.  I would be a hypocrite if I celebrate Dr. House, the Punisher, and James Bond but condemn Batwoman and Midnighter.

For me, what’s paramount in fiction is making a meaningful, memorable, and enjoyable story – and the features that come with it, like characters, worldbuilding, plot points, etc. – as well as provoking thought and sharing morals.  Negative elements – including those that are considered sin in real life – are “acceptable” in the sense that they are make-believe ingredients to fulfill the aforementioned “paramounts.”  But I don’t mean that delighting in sin is already acceptable once it’s in the confines of fiction (if sin in fiction leads you to tolerate or celebrate sin in reality, then it’s best for the soul if you avoid a work of fiction entirely).  What I mean is that the negative elements of its details are peripheral to the art created and reflections inspired by the overall context of a work of fiction.  In addition, the negative elements are to be filtered out, and focus on any positive elements that have been made apparent due to the negative elements’ presence that has been contrasted against.

Keeping the perspective stated in the previous paragraph in mind, when I celebrate and enjoy Dr. House, Punisher, James Bond, and – yes – even Batwoman and Midnighter, I do so with them as fictional characters in general and what they bring to the context of the fictional story/world they’re in.  But I don’t approve of, celebrate, and enjoy their particular sins.
Even in real life, it doesn’t mean that if one is gay, then I’m no longer allowed to acknowledge, like, admire, respect, and compliment him for his talents, good attitude, and admirable qualities.  I don’t approve of Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality, but he’s truly a phenomenal front man, and I’m a fan of his in this regard.  If a gay cook prepared a free delicious meal for me, I will eat it, praise his cooking skills, and thank his generosity.

Nobody is perfect.  Any amount of good we may have in us can’t make up for the fact that we – gay or straight – are equally flawed, depraved creatures.  But I believe that through the good and admirable things we see in others – whether they’re real or fictional – we are able to observe shadows of the infinitely admirable attributes of Jesus, and at the same time, the good and admirable things we see in others – real or fictional – sharpens our own admiration of Jesus, whom all admirable qualities are ultimately perfected.

So, yeah, I believe homosexuality is a sin, but I can appreciate well-written, well-developed fictional characters who happen to be gay.
Now, back to Iceman…

The issue here is not necessarily the character being gay, but because he was made gay when he was commonly known and beloved as straight during his entire character history prior to that.  Seriously, if they wanted a prominent gay X-Man, then they should have created a new X-Man that happens to be gay, and then develop the character well.  Instead, they took a heterosexual iconic X-Man, and then in a snap of a finger – just like that – transformed him into gay.  It was cheap, lazy, unimaginative, and gratuitous.

And just the same, that’s my – and Takei’s – problem with gay Sulu. 

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